Poor Stevie

over the wake

I went water skiing for the first time in about a decade on the weekend. Most of the muscles in my body still hurt. I’m pretty sure the ear muscles of people who have been around me for the last three days are also hurting from all the whingeing-slash-bragging I’ve been doing.

J-man and I went to visit my parents in Orange and dad took us all to Carcoar Dam for a day on the boat. We all had a go on the biscuit – which I believe in other circles is called a “tube” – and Dad was the only one to fall off. He says he jumped off when J-man tried to take him on an s-bend, we say he fell off as a result of J-man’s trickery at the helm.

I really wanted to have a go at water skiing, something I learnt to do in late primary school and early high school, but I wasn’t sure I could still do it. I slipped into my wetsuit (after checking it for spiders) and had trouble putting on the heavy skis in the water (after checking them for spiders). I wanted to give up until J-man said “You’re struggling even putting on the skis, do you think you’re fit enough to waterski?” That was it. It took a few goes getting up and out of the water, so each time dad would drive the boat around to pick me up I would say to myself “You can do this Steve. Show J-man who’s boss”. And then I did. And I skied up and over the wake and back again, even doing a few mini jumps and taking the time out to ski one-handed so I could flip J-man the bird.

Mum told me it was all about muscle memory, but as I sailed across the glassy water I was also reminded of when I first learnt to ski. The family of a primary school friend taught me by patiently dragging me behind their orange boat called Popeye. My friend would spoon me in the water and put her feet on the skis to hold them up. I still have scars on my wrists that mark the first time I made it out of the water, after first banging my arms on the sharp sides of old wooden skis.

I would spend weekends with her family at the dams around Orange quite a lot towards the end of primary school and in the early years of high school. Her family was so different from mine. I remember her dad singing “Every night, every day, every possible way, we will do it, yeah yeah” on a trip home once. When I repeated the tune to my dad, he was less than impressed and he had to explain its meaning to me. My friend and her sister were huge belly-laughers, who wildly jumped off pontoons and loved being thrown off the biscuit into the water. They seemed fearless. Their family also ate a lot of stuff we were never allowed to – her mum made a Barbie pool cake for one of her early birthdays and microwaved McDonald’s she had picked up from town.  The girls were allowed to read the sealed sections of Dolly and Girlfriend out in the open. Later in high school, my friend was allowed to have parties in a spare paddock of the family’s property. It was out there, in the dewy grass under a clear winter sky, where I learnt an important lesson: Always bundle up your clothes and take them with you on a nudie run.

None of this really has a point, except that I’m so grateful to have had a bare foot, bike riding, paddock bashing, water skiing childhood.

And that I love proving J-man wrong.

 

you make my heart sing

I dread the day when I have to tell my own children I don’t love them as much as I love my nephew, V-man. I guess I’ll have to find the appropriate moment – like when I leave them in a basket amongst the reeds. I’m sure community services will understand when I use this video as a defence.

I spent Saturday looking after the little man and we had a blast. There was a beach trip, naps, story time and a little bit of crying for his mummy and daddy. So a lot like my honeymoon, really.

This was our Saturday schedule:

0930 – Vincent turns up clinging to the necks of Mary and Andrew and eyeing me suspiciously. They leave and he cries and cries. Our fridge is covered in hilarious things that he loves like dog magnets, photos from Taronga Zoo and polaroids of J-man and I when we were young and in love. When he sees a photo of a mountain goat he calms down and, in between sobs, points to it and says “dog”. I tell him that’s no way to speak about his Aunty Julia.

1015 – We turn on Rage to distract V-man from the heartbreak of being an orphan for a day. Joan Jett’s Bad Reputation comes on and the baby starts dancing. Cute!

1115 – We all get ready to go to Balmoral Beach. On the bus ride I start singing: “We’re going to the beach! We’re going to the beach!” Then, just like Biggie and 2Pac, we get a little call and response going. Aunty Steve: “We’re going to the beach! We’re going to the beach! Where are we going?” V-man (with arms raised): “The beeesch”.

1130 – Turns out the baby hates the beach. He likes being dunked in the water OK, but he hates the sand and starts grizzling and pointing to the bus stop about 30 seconds after we arrive. Man, kids do not know how to party. Soon he gets so sad I decide to take him to the grass area, where he starts to howl and howl. It’s really quite heartbreaking until two little kids with bags of popcorn come up and say: “Why is he sad? Does he want some popcorn?”. V-man takes the popcorn and stops crying. AND MY COLD, DEAD HEART COMES OUT OF MY EYES IN THE FORM OF FAIRY TEARS.

1145 – J-man buys us colas and V-man a fruit juice. V starts crying again and becomes very clingy to just me. I ask J-man whether he thinks he should put his shirt on to stop scaring the baby. J-man says I am crazy. I’m pretty sure it’s a legitimate concern.

1215 – We realise that V-man wants nothing more than to leave. So rather than take him back to the sand to collect our stuff, V and I sit on a bench while J-man packs us up. I hold him and point out a little kayak to him. I tell him it’s like a row boat and start singing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” and he grins from ear to ear. Every time I stop singing he says: “ro-ro?” to prompt me to start again. My hipster reputation lies in tatters.

1230 – We get on the bus and almost immediately V-man starts to snore in my arms. I have some trouble finding a button to push to signal our stop. This is when I realise that all those mothers who go on and on and on about people being jerks are right. All these people just stare at me while I struggle with a beach bag, a sleeping kid and a video game-playing husband. We miss our stop and I blame humanity. Humanity and those damn selfish childless women.

1315 – I hope V-man will keep sleeping for a while, so Aunty Steve can catch up on the important business of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. But he wakes up with a snap as soon as we get home and says “ro-ro?”

1400 – We play with the phone, the remote control, the PlayStation control, the fridge magnets, the button on the TV, the handle on the suitcase table and carefully examine the knob on the drawer of our phone table. It’s exhilarating. We play a really great (read: predictable) game of chasies. J-man has a couple of friends come over and V-man hides behind my legs. I put on my playsuit especially to go to the playground and I show V-man how slippery dips are done.

1500 – I carry V-man a couple of blocks to get a lemonade icy pole and we share it in our courtyard. I don’t know if he’s had an ice block before, but it seems like a huge novelty. His eyes get all wide, he goes “ooooh” when I unwrap it and it’s obvious the cold sensation is new and weird to him. My land lady is in the courtyard doing some washing and hangs a little stuffed dog up on the line by its ears. I get a bit worried V-man will be upset, but he says “dog” and my land lady falls for his charm and gives it to him to keep. Inside, he throws it on the ground over and over again. Baby hates fake dogs. I say that is no way to treat his Aunty Julia.

1545 –  I have the ingenious idea to share a mint slice biscuit with him on the couch. Yeah, great idea idiot. Babies get stuff everywhere. Within five minutes there is chocolate on the couch, on his clothes, through his hair, on his hat and all over my soul. I clean him up and take him downstairs to put his hat in the washing machine. And I scar the kid for life. It turns out his hat is kind of his security blanket, so seeing it locked into a big noisy watery box is the end of the world. We go back inside and he throws himself on the floor in sadness. Just like I did when J-man washed a blue sock with my new white singlet top in Holland. No, really – there may have been public yelling and throwing of things. Aw, the little man takes after me.

1600 – Everything is OK once we read Where The Wild Things Are and he roars his terrible roar.

1601 – The exact moment when my lady mechanics ache for a baby. Get it together J-man! Just keep your damn shirt on.

planting lilacs and buttercups

Every year or so, J-man gets a new obsession. One year it was Chris Bath the newsreader, another time it was the White Stripes, then it was cooking pizza from scratch and at the moment it is brewing beer. J-man’s interest in beer has also extended to cooking and spices and flavours and experimenting in the kitchen. Let’s just say I now know so much about yeast, I could turn one bread roll into a thousand loaves and name thineself the messiah.

This whole thing has caused the biggest relationship rift since Kris Humphries pushed Kim Kardashian into the ocean while they holidayed in Bora Bora and she lost one of her $75,000 diamond earrings on the bottom of the ocean and then cried and we all thought it was the end and all the kittens in the world died.

Just two nights ago a discussion about cooking ended with J-man calling my salads “just a bunch of stuff cubed in a bowl” and my vegetarian cooking “boring”. I’m pretty sure he called my face “dead ugly” and then kicked a puppy too. Then all the kittens in the world died. Needless to say, I stormed off to the bedroom and sulked like any 25-year-old woman would do. I mean, c’mon cooking is my thing.

Now that I have recovered, I have to admit J-man has gotten pretty great at cooking. His Indian dishes are amazing, his Thai stuff is even better and he makes a mean schnitzel. He’s so great that I won’t even mention the time he left chicken breasts defrosting on the hot water heater for days. Twice.

But one thing I definitely excel at is cooking treats. So J-man, as Matt Damon once said “How’d you like [these cookies]”

[Note PJ Harvey playing in the background to offset all previous references to women-hating. I love women! They’re so sexy!]

30 days of Poor Stevie

I had a great idea this morning while reading about mass chicken farming in Australia. As I read about the 75,000 chickens slaughtered in a processing plant in one day, I thought: What is something meaningful I could do? Of course, as a Generation Y middle-class white girl, I forgot entirely about those tasty, decadent, delicious chickens and started pondering something totally unrelated and self-involved. Myself! My interesting, clever and wonderful self.

For 30 days (maybe) I’m going to shoot very short videos of what my days are like. I know, right? WORLD CHANGING SHIT IS GOING DOWN RIGHT HERE.

First up. This is me dancing to rap in our kitchen on a Sunday morning. J-man tells me if I really listened to the women-hating lyrics of this song, I’d be upset. But hey, girls just wanna have fun!

i left my heart

After travelling for six months, J-man and I learnt never to judge a city by the way it looks when you arrive. The international bus station in Berlin is a cement wasteland in the middle of a beautiful, mysterious city. The train into Venice gives you a tour of the romantic city’s bowels, rushing you past the sewerage plant and factories. The station in Sofia is a dark death chamber filled with groups of toothless men smoking cigars and eyeing you off like they’re figuring out how to bundle you into their boot and sell you into sex slavery … OK, so that’s a pretty accurate indication of what that city is like.

The only place where the first impression was the right one was San Francisco. The day we flew in, a couple of weeks before Christmas, it was cold and drizzling lightly. We drove into the city, pointing out the views of the bay, the tall terraces, the colourful rows of houses and the crazy-scary hills. The airline had lost our bags, but our sweet taxi driver was playing Buddhist chants and I felt calm, inspired and happy.

I will conveniently skip over the following four days where I totally, irrationally flipped out over loss of said bags, walked through the Tenderloin district alone and in tears and spent an inordinate amount of time crying and watching 16 and Pregnant. I’m pretty sure J-man spent an inordinate amount of time researching the best route to Reno for a quickie divorce.

The reason why I’m writing about San Francisco now, after all these months, is because I’ve actually been unsure whether I can do it justice. Here, I’ll try:

We were lucky enough to be housesitting for a lovely family and caring for their sweet black cat. We made a temporary home and spent our days cooking, exploring the neighbourhood, eating, drinking and taking excursions to different areas. One day we spent an afternoon in Golden Gate Park, before becoming immersed in Haight Street and all its amazing shops and characters. Another day we went to Chinatown, wandered down some side streets and ended up in a bustling restaurant where we were the only tourists. We went to countless movies, and dissected them over food at Mel’s Drive-in while putting old Christmas carols on the juke box. I had my first, real American pecan pie. We celebrated our first, and probably only, solo Christmas; combining our family traditions and sharing them only with each other. We hired a car for a day with the intention to end our drive by going over the Golden Gate Bridge. We got caught in terrible traffic and by the time we drove over it, I couldn’t have cared less because I was BUSTING to wee. Later we managed to convince a guy at a garage to let me use the toilet by telling him I was pregnant. We got coffees and walked along the shore at Crissy Field. We saw in the new year by having a decadent dinner and then watching the fireworks on top of a hill. I had grown a little pudgy on our trip, so every morning I climbed the hill and walked while taking in a 360-degree view of the city.

Up on that hill, I thought about just how crazy it was that we made it right through Europe and drove across America to San Francisco. Steve, just a small town gal, was here in San Fran-freakin’-cisco. I don’t mean to be all “ah-ha moment” lame, but I started to think about our future and what might be possible. When we came home, some of those hopes came true.

San Francisco is definitely my favourite place in the world.

 

 

home improvement

I’m really starting to make like big bird and nest. I’m pretty sure J-man, the little cookie monster, is thrilled.

Recently, I decided to get creative by stealing someone else’s great idea of making a suitcase table. Because it was so much fun – not to mention being really great for our marriage – I have decided to share the process with you:

Step one: Go to Surry Hills markets and buy an overpriced vintage suitcase from a hipster conman. Feel empty, betrayed and bitter for the rest of the day.

Step two: Tell your husband to high-tail it to Bunnings and pick you up some table legs, some lacquer and some T-nuts. Set aside T-nuts for personal use.

Step three: Stain the legs on your white kitchen floor. Lean the freshly stained legs up against your white wall. You won’t regret it and, I swear, your landlord will love the new “bespoke” detail on his precious property.

Step four: Tell your husband to re-do your nails. And do it now, baldy!

Step five: Ask your husband to take a photo of you posing Charlie’s Angels-style with your new power drill in your messy kitchen. He won’t mind!

Step six: Drill some holes in that suitcase. Try not to let your mind wander to whether the Romans or whoever used asbestos to make their suitcases.

Step seven: Tell your husband to figure out what the hell to do with T-nuts. He, of all people, should know how to handle those babies with care.

Step eight: Don’t get angry at your selfish husband when the T-nut strategy goes balls up. He really is a good man deep inside and you can forgive him once he returns to Bunnings with his man tail between his legs to get plates and screws instead.

Step nine: Allow your husband to take over the drilling once in a while. It’s good for his sense of manhood.

Step ten: When he starts doing annoying things, like being reasonable and telling you to be careful, start swearing and calling him names until he storms out and says “I’m going to the gym”. Continue drilling and muttering under your breath.

Step eleven: When it becomes clear this really is a two person job, use your cutesy puppy voice to ask him to stay and help, promising you’ll never call him a “pain in the arse” or a “little poo” again. He’ll obey because he knows what’s good for him.

Step twelve: Admire your finished product! You have worked so, so hard to make this perfect. To celebrate, go and sink one of your husband’s expensive beers. You know the ones – the precious American ales he saves up for and stores away for special occasions. He’ll be totally cool with it, I promise!

VIP

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but J-man is kind of a big deal. In colder weather and in the ocean he is just a medium deal.

On an unrelated note J-man works in the music industry, meaning he sometimes gets tickets to gigs and takes me as his guest. And ladies, if you’re not going to marry for love you should definitely marry for clean toilets at music festivals. I will leave the guessing about why I married J-man up to you.

Recently we went to Splendour in the Grass together, like a BOSS(es).

On the night before we left for Splendour, J-man wasn’t giving too much away about the Wicked camper van we hired. I understood why when I – with what I believe is a fairly justified and reasonable stance against rape – saw this pretty rapeish slogan on the back of the vehicle we would be spending the next five days of our lives in:

It was an uneventful trip interstate and, surprisingly, it didn’t involve getting pulled over and cavity searched to within an inch of our lives.

When we arrived at Splendour, we chose a terrible camping spot we had to stick with because Ted Bundy the Wicked van couldn’t get up a slope with its three horse power engine. Obviously one of those horses was busy eating, the other was really a donkey and the last one was already dog food.

So we dealt with it, set up camp and did a lot of this:

That night we went side of stage. Did you hear that? Side of stage. I don’t know if you know, but that means the side of the stage. The actual stage. You know the stage where only famous people and their concubines are allowed? Yeah, we were there. On the side, that is. The side of the stage:

That there is the back of Kanye West. It turns out that while the side of stage (repeat side of stage) gives you a great behind-the-scenes view, including his poor dancers doing costume changes in front of leering roadies, you do spend a lot of time looking at people’s butts. But still! Famous butts! I felt pretty smug being allowed side of stage and signed a bunch of babes’ boobs without them even asking. Hey, just living the motto of the Wicked van, man.

And then J-man went and stole my thunder: